It's been a joy to me to go back to Earthsea and find it still there, entirely familiar, and yet changed and still changing. What I thought was going to happen isn't what's happening, people aren't who-- or what-- I thought they were, and I lose my way on islands I thought I knew by heart.
Ursula K. Le Guin, from the foreword to Tales from Earthsea, 2001.
After completing Tehanu, LeGuin’s imagination craved more information about her characters and the world they lived in. Apparently the unanswered questions that readers were left with in the Earthsea novels had also been unanswered in the author's mind. So she began to "research" the history of her fictional world, and this collection of short stories and one essay were the result.
The book includes "The Finder," a novella which details the founding of the school of Roke during Earthsea’s Dark Ages, some three centuries before the time of the previous novels."The Bones of the Earth" returns to Gont, where we learn more about Ogion, Ged’s mentor. "Darkrose and Diamond" is a love story, and "On the High Marsh" features the only (brief) appearance by Ged in these stories. The second novella, "Dragonfly," taking place shortly after Tehanu, once again brings the sexual politics of the Archipelago into focus as the first woman in 300 years attempts to enter the Wizard’s School at Roke. This last story is intended as a bridge to the next Earthsea novel, The Other Wind.
Fans of the series will also salivate over the final piece in the collection, "A Description of Earthsea." In this essay LeGuin assembles for the first time a description of the people, languages, magic, history, and scholarship of the Archipelago. She fills us in on the historical details of the stories behind Sunreturn’s oft-told "The Deed of Morred" and the Long Dance’s "The Deed of Erreth-Akbe."
While the collection works as a stand alone introduction to the world of Earthsea, readers familiar with the previous novels will appreciate it the most. (And if you haven't read the original trilogy since you were a child, I recommend going back, and reading all of the Earthsea books again-- LeGuin's storytelling seems even better crafted and her mythology deeper than I could appreciate as a young reader)